art, photography

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 209: “surrealism”

This week, we have a tough topic. Tracy, who posts at Reflections of an Untidy Mind, has chosen Surrealism. When thinking of Surrealism, I assume, that most people think of the painting by Catalonian artists Salvatore Dalí or Joan Miró. Surrealism began in the wake of the First World War when the horror and violence experienced by so many had shifted perceptions of sanity and reality.
But, what is surrealism?
What are the key characteristics? Surrealism is the doctrine of something going over the edge of reality. It is the try to imagine ideas, dreams, and/or emotions. A painter or sculptor can follow her inner voice to picture her imagination. But a photographer? Cameras are supposed to capture reality. So, how can they capture surrealistic images?
There are a few photographers active in this field like Brooke Shaden and Kyle Thompson. They create dream-like images by transporting the methods and ideas from painting to photography. Strange shapes, floating body parts, and bizarre landscapes: the Surrealists sought to challenge notions of normality through the power of photography. 

What makes a photo Surrealism?

“Surreal images tend to be dreamlike and tap into people’s unconscious,” says Tryforos. “They’re often made of different elements that are put together in unexpected ways.” Surreal images almost always contain recognizable elements from real life.
Features of Surrealistic Art
  • Dream-like scenes and symbolic images.
  • Unexpected, illogical juxtapositions.
  • Bizarre assemblages of ordinary objects.
  • Automatism and a spirit of spontaneity.
  • Games and techniques to create random effects.
  • Personal iconography.
  • Visual puns.
  • Distorted figures and biomorphic shapes.


Having this in my, I have a few images to show:

details: a fairie’s dream
following an idea from the fairytale “The flying suitcase (Der fliegende Koffer)” by Hans-Christian Anderson
  • wrong white balance or using coloring filters / colored light

  • focussing on shapes and shadows instead of recognizable subjects

  • find surreal settings around you to capture
a shop-window in Rennes, France, a couple of years ago.


tree mummies of Dead Vlei


huge parts of the Icelandic landscape are looking so surreal
  • settings were parts don’t fit

here, you can read a bit more about that shower


  • dreamy scenes


a dreamy forest on Kerkyra


surpresed landscape


  • infrared
photographing in infrared


You see, you don’t have to be a painter to be able to create surrealistic images. And, as you can see, the border between surrealistic images and abstract images can be quite small sometimes.

Take care!


26 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 209: “surrealism””

  1. Wow, these photos and your explanation are terrific, Andre. Mowing the tennis ball! I was completely entranced. The fairie dream, etc, etc. I must learn how to photograph in infrared. I will definitely be returning to this post so I can follow some of your links and learn more.

    1. Thank you so much, Tracy. The IR image is quite old. In the meantime I gave it up. Modern cameras need a lot of modifications to capture IR (and nothing else after the modification). Even the software won’t work properly anymore. In addition, the time to use it during the year, is way too short for such an invest. That image was taken with an unmodified camera and quite a lot of work afterwards.
      Tabletop photography comes quite easy. Get a number of figurines from a toy shop, imagine your scene, and take your photo.

      1. Thanks for that advice, Andre. IR photography sounds complicated, expensive and time consuming. I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do now as it is. So best to know these things before going down the IR rabbit hole. I really like that last photo of yours though so thank you for sharing it.

        1. You’re welcome, Tracy. IR is definitely very amazing. But, when looking at the resulting images, you can’t see, how much had to be invested. I also started very enthusiastic about 12 years ago, with an old unmodified camera. That camera wasn’t protected against IR. So, it was possible. It had only about 5 or 6 MP and the quality was quite low compared with the quality of the Images we‘re used to see nowadays. Current cameras instead are protected against IR, because IR lowers the sharpness of regular images. You also have to use IR capable lenses. Up to the 1980s, IR bw films were used on a regular basis in architecture photography. Old lenses were tested for their performance in regards to IR. They even had marks on them to use for IR photography. Modern lenses aren’t tested that way anymore. So, the chance is quite high to have terrible hotspots when using modern lenses to capture IR light. (I tried and it was a disaster 😢)

  2. Amazing surreal images, Andre!! All are beautifully done and so very creative! The mowing the tennis ball, Wow…

  3. Wow Andre, some marvelous images in this set. Although all are wonderful I’d call out a few favorites: the couch No One Leaves, the lawnmower on the tennis ball, the window showcase in France. Terrific from start to finish!

    1. Thank you so much, John😊 there’s a good portion of work in, but I really like the final versions. 😊 great you like them, too 😁

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